Tiburon
Electronic Arts
Sports
1-2
11.22.05

Madden NFL 06 (Xbox 360)


You got your Xbox 360, and you want an NFL football game. There's no NFL 2K6, and there's certainly no NFL Fever, so what does that leave us with? Madden NFL 06. Whether you like it or not, this game is the only NFL football game that will be available for years to come. So how does the next generation football title look and play? Absolutely, positively amazing. I will admit that EA's Madden the past few years wasn't doing much for me, especially with the 2K series being available. So for me to really get into the 360 version, they really had to re-do the entire game. And they did just that.

One of the main reasons I was never crazy over the current generation versions of Madden was because of the controls. I would always become confused when I had to remember that the turbo button was different when on offense and defense. Well folks, EA has blessed us, and there is no more confusing setup with the controls. Turbo is one button, and it's the right trigger. After briefly playing Madden 06 on Xbox, I understand that they also made it so the sprint button is the same, but it's just in a better spot on the 360. The one other thing that I couldn't stand was John Madden announcing the entire game. Well everybody, EA killed 2 birds with one stone here, because the only time Madden speaks is when you use the 'Ask Madden' option when calling a play. The new announcer is way more exciting, and makes the gameplay experience so much better.

Gameplay

Before you even ask, yes this game has been completely overhauled, and made for Xbox 360. One of my first thoughts about the gameplay was: I finally feel like I have complete 'control' when playing defense. I say this because previous Madden editions just didn't have this feel for me. I am happy to say that playing defense is pleasing because it puts you in control of the action. In addition, the controls are smooth and make the experience what it is.

The new kicking meter is simple, and suits those familiar with the NFL 2K series. Calling audibles, putting players in motion, and calling hot routes are about as simple as pushing a single button. The play calling system is straightforward and has many different options. If you just feel like being the player, and not the coach, you can choose to ďAsk CoachĒ play. This is similar to the ďAsk MaddenĒ option, which is intact in the 360 version, but it feels a lot more realistic if itís coming straight from the coach. Itís really easy to go back and select any of the last 5 plays you ran. The whole QB vision control is completely optional, but it still helps to be a little more accurate when passing.

Iíll admit I was a little worried about how the gameplay would be, but I always end up enjoying every moment when I play this game. One of my main concerns to be worried was the feel of the game. Fortunately, the controls are ultra responsive, and I feel like Iím in complete control. Donít get me wrong, the core of the older Madden games still exists, but itís tweaked to a way that is almost perfect. If you played the NFL 2K series or Madden before, the running controls are set up just as you would expect. The X button dives, and the Y button puts your head down and covers the ball. The A and B buttons are used for juke and spin, and you can change the direction of each by aiming the left thumbstick. Passing the ball requires some skill, but if you have experience, the default difficulty level will be way too easy for you. Before throwing the ball, as a QB, you can scramble, pump fake, throw the ball away, lock onto a receiver, and/or lead a receiver. Most of these probably arenít necessary until playing on a higher difficulty level, or when playing a match with a friend. Along with calling audibles, performing line shifts, intercepting, and tackling all make the defensive side of the game fun. On both sides of the ball there is an opportunity to use the Truck stick/Hit stick option. By using the right thumbstick, you are able to put all your power into an opponent and knock the wind right out of him.

Playing online is so smooth, itís as if your not even online. I have no gripes about the online play, and it is a job well done by EA. For me, the multiplayer experience plays a huge role in any sports title. Unfortunately, Madden 06 for the 360 was a straight blow to the head. I say that because there is no option to play with a friend on the same team cooperatively. All you can do is play 1 on 1 games both online and offline. Furthermore, other obvious things are missing that did not make the cut. This is probably due to the fact that this is the first Madden game for 360, and the reality that EA had a tight deadline for launch. There is no create a player, and you canít edit existing players either. No challenge play has been implemented in this version. Being able to challenge a call is a big factor in the NFL, and I wasnít too happy about that being left out. In addition, there really isn't much to look at in the manual, since it's only 9 pages and doesn't even have a table of contents! The franchise mode is a little weak, but fine for me since I just want to play football. For those who liked the training camp and the whole morale thing, you may find the game to be falling a little short in features. But this is not the old Madden, so nothing is missing the way I look at it.

Graphics

The graphics are one of the first things that you'll notice when first playing Madden 06. The 360 version makes the players look better than ever. They still slightly maintain the Madden "look", but they the graphics are noticeably enhanced and contain more polygons per player without question. With that said, there are also a lot more player animations then I've seen in any Madden NFL game. The tackling is good, and the animations are smooth throughout the game. I did come across a few minor graphical glitches like collision detection, and other things that are even worth mentioning.

After choosing a play, the camera pans up close usually to the QB. There are a only a handful of angles that are shown as the players walk to the line of scrimmage. It gets old rather quickly seeing a close up of just the QB and sometimes an overhead view of the defense. If you pause the game and do a replay, and get the right angle, you can see how good the graphics and the player models actually look.

The realistic weather is a really nice touch. I started a game that was -20 degrees, set the precipitation to heavy, and very windy. Naturally, it would be snowing like crazy. The best part is that as the game progresses, more and more snow gets on the field. The only weak point is that there are no footprints. Aside from that, the helmets and jerseys get dirty as the game carries on.

The crowd is about a hundred times better looking then any crowd Iíve ever seen in a football videogame, and I was actually happy to see the crowd, instead of seeing a blur of pixels and characters with a ridiculously low polygon count. Every seat in every stadium is accounted for, literally. The stadiums themselves are rendered beautifully. EA said that a single helmet in this game has more polygons than an entire player of the Xbox version. And I can believe that myself. That's how great the graphics are. And from the looks of other 360 games, the graphics can only get better for next year. Seeing the holes in the jerseys is nothing new, but the actual threading on the shirts, pants, and socks is pretty damn impressive. EA definitely took the time to go all out and make the graphics gorgeous.

Sound

All I can say is Alleluiah. It's a new generation people, and that also means a whole new play-by-play commentator. I can totally live without John Madden talking for an entire game, and I know you will be able to as well, especially once you hear the new exciting announcer that EA has put into this game. The new announcer is fresh and about a thousand times more enthusiastic than John Madden. He gives the Madden franchise the new feel that it has been desperately in need of for years. As I mentioned before, the only time Madden talks is when you use the "Ask Madden" play. Don't get me wrong Madden is a good guy and all, but I was just sick of hearing him on every single play talking about the same thing over and over.

When you use the "Ask Coach" option when on offense, you can actually hear your coach yelling plays into your helmet. This is very intuitive and one of the things that kept me hyped up while playing. The sounds of the players, the coaches, and the crowd all make you feel like you are at the stadium.

Replay Value

I may sound a bit harsh, but Tiburon has developed a Madden NFL that I actually can play and not get annoyed with. EA and Tiburon gave us a game with a next generation feel. Some things that should be in this game are definitely absent. Either way, if you are a fan of football, and you own an Xbox 360, you will have a great time playing this version. The next Madden I assume will have all the essential features that are missing from this version. With that said this game gives me high hopes for Madden NFL 07.

Bottom Line:

This is a good first effort by EA. This is a great game, and they leave it with great potential to be even better next year. I really can't wait to see how Madden NFL 07 will look and play. Call me crazy, but I was an NFL 2K fan (still am), but I am telling you this is not the same old Madden. This is a brand new game with a brand new engine, and it should be added to your Xbox 360 library. Even if you were never a Madden fan, I would recommend giving the Xbox 360 version a go. Itís obvious that there is room for improvement, but itís also obvious that this is a great NFL title to own. Hats off to EA for coming out with this fantastic NFL experience.

Related Links:

Official Madden NFL 06 Website

-Steve Melanson




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